I did not make this headline up
At center. The one in the goalie pads. Obviously.
Michigan hockey had been scouting around for a goalie ever since… well… for a while, anyway. They have acquired him: Zach Nagelvoort, a '94—ie, about a year older than a kid straight out of high school—currently playing in the NAHL for the Aberdeen Wings.
Nagelvoort was traded midseason at his request after he found himself behind former Lake State commit Tyler Marble and his .940. Good call, dude. Nagelvoort tore it up after the trade, going 8-1-1 down the stretch and winning the league's goalie of the month award. His stats during that run were pretty good: a .957 save percentage and GAA of 1.42 for one of the worst teams in the league. As a team, Aberdeen's save percentage .908 even with his contributions. He wasn't bad with his previous team, either, as his cumulative save percentage is .936.
Aberdeen head coach Travis Winter said the Nagelvoort came in wanting to succeed and wanting to help turn things around. “Zach came in and immediately injected the team with confidence. He is a very confident goaltender and person and it rubbed off on the rest of the team. We know we have a chance to win every night when he is in goal and during the last two months of the season, that was the mindset in every game and one of the reasons the team played so well.” Winter also said that Nagelvoort’s strengths in goal lies within his athleticism. “Zach is a very athletic goalie, who doesn’t give up on plays and he is very quick from side to side. He makes the 2nd and sometimes 3rd saves you need to stay in the game and keep momentum going and you almost never see a bad goal scored on him. I think all that combined with his confidence makes him an elite goaltender at this level.”
He's 6'2", just under 200 pounds.
While this is a flier, Nagelvoort has real shot at playing time. Nagelvoort's stats suggest he's got potential, and the Rangers (yes those Rangers) apparently checked him out in December. While taking an NAHL skater is almost always a sign of desperation—or at least a signal that you need a guy to scratch nightly—goalies are weird and come from weird places and the NAHL is one of these places. Last year two(!) NAHL goalies were drafted by the NHL, one of them (Anthony Stolarz) in the second round. This year the NTDP grabbed an NAHL goalie for the Five Nations tourney, bypassing the USHL. Former OSU goalie Cal Heeter came from the NAHL, as did former Maine starter and NHL backup Ben Bishop. [UPDATE: Oh and a guy named Shawn Hunwick you might have heard of.]
Steve Racine established a grip on the starting goalie job during Michigan's late run and will likely enter next year as the starter. If he falters, Michigan needed an option other than Jared Rutledge, which they've found. Whether Rutledge stays around with dim prospects or tries to find playing time elsewhere is unknown. The scholarship situation is murky there; one thing that may have helped with Nagelvoort is that he is originally from Michigan and presumably can get instate tuition.
I haven't had the chance to go through the full tape yet, but here are a few of the more memorable moments (from a Michigan standpoint) from Monday's title game. Above, obviously, is Spike Albrecht Bonanza. Hit the jump for a couple of high-flying Wolverines and some great shots from the CBS intro.
Inside the locker room. Grantland's Shane Ryan has a great article about Michigan in the locker room after the game:
This is clearly one of the most painful losses of your career. When it's over, you have a few minutes to talk to each other, to be alone, and then it's an onslaught of media. Your pain is still fresh. You can't get mad, you can't get annoyed, you can't refuse, and it lasts a long time. What's that like?
Tim Hardaway Jr.: [laughing] "I mean, it's not — I don't want to say it's brutal, but it is … it's a job. It's their job, it's your job to get stuff, so … I mean, I'm not worried about it, I'm not afraid to talk about it, so … that is the nice answer, but it's honest, I'm honest about it. It's part of what they do. It's part of what everybody does, so I mean, I'm not worried about it at all."
Hardaway's laughter was satisfying, in a way, because it cracked his shell for a moment. It broke through the training, and it showed, for an instant, the real difficulty it presented. The laugh was part sarcastic, part "how could I possibly explain this to you?" and part "it's miserable and depressing, but I know better than to say that on the record." It was also the prelude to shutting down again. I even interrupted him halfway through: "That's the nice answer" — but he was careful not to take the bait a second time. Still, I got that one laugh.
Reason #3,509 I have no interest in having a press pass.
Everyone's main question. McGary backed off the definitely back talk and is now in Hated Chad Ford's top 20. Let's seize on this quote and cuddle it for warmth:
"This will be a great team next year, with great guys coming in and a great group of guys leaving, you can't replace those five seniors," he said. "We'll see."
"There's some unfinished business. ... We'll see next year."
In the immediate aftermath, the News picked up this quote from Robinson:
"Right now, I'll be back. We'll talk about that whenever I need to but you know this isn't the time to talk about that right now," Robinson said. "It's about all these guys in the locker room that played their hearts out tonight."
Burke, of course, seems gone. Hardaway is 50/50 with tea leaves suggesting he leaves. Someone ask Tim Hardaway's hat.
In other news, NBA scouts are kind of jerks.
"I think it was obvious that he was the reason that Michigan got that far. He will be drafted higher than he should be," the scout said. "He wants to be (Allen) Iverson but I'm not sure any organization will just hand him the ball. I question his speed and size. Definitely (at least) an NBA backup point guard."
I question your face, buddy. And your basketball acumen if you think that Burke's an inefficient volume shooter and ball-hog.
Slate on the whatnot. Guhhhh.
After Albrecht’s sadly non-superheroic jaunt to the basket, Louisville’s Chane Behanan plucks the ball off the backboard and throws an outlet pass to Peyton Siva. The Cardinals guard is in the open court with only Burke between him and the basket. On the subject of irrational confidence: Just a minute before, the 6-foot Siva had gone backdoor, leaped high into the air, and stuffed in an alley-oop. Now, Siva jumps from the same spot on the court. Burke, who’s slowed down to time his steps, jumps with him. Their hands meet above the rim, cresting at the midpoint of the backboard square. It’s a beautiful play, proof that you can achieve athletic grace by canceling out your opponent’s best effort.
And then the stupid ref ruins it by calling a stupid foul.
Levin eventually concludes that he's not sure what you could do to make basketball less dependent on the random guesses of [redacted] men in stripes. I wish I could be as benevolent about the lessons to take from the outcome.
Why it took so long to foul. Beilein screwed up:
"I thought we were in the 1-and-1, so it's a coaching error on my part" Beilein said. "We were trying to foul the right guy (Dieng). I was happy (Dieng) was going to the foul line, and I didn't realize we weren't in the 1-and-1. That falls right on me as a coach."
Fire this clown! HOT TAKES
Lawrence Frank disagrees. He got a little hot when the idea of questioning Beilein for sitting Burke as long as he did came up:
"Let's say he (Beilein) puts him (Burke) back, when, I don't know, two-minute mark, three-minute mark, and he picks up his third foul, up 12," Frank said. "What are people going to say then? 'Well, what the hell, you had a 12-point cushion, why would you put him back in the game?'
"Look, what it took was a guy that was a transfer walk-on (Hancock) to make four threes. Everyone's entitled to their opinion but trust me, John Beilein knows that Trey Burke's the national college player of the year. It's not a surprise to him. He knows how good the kid is. He also knows how the ebb and flow of the game goes."
Frank said he was stunned that Beilein's decisions were so scrutinized after a well-played game.
"Here's a guy, he's got the youngest team in the tournament, they're in the final game, and yet a story line is coaching. Are you kidding me?" Frank said. "Not that he's infallible or didn't make mistakes. He got the youngest team in the tournament to the finals."
Odes. Michigan blog tribute outbursts come in waves:
- Maize and Go Blue actually uses "ode" in the title.
- MVictors talks about how he shuts down during games. I alternate between that and outbursts when the pressure gets too high.
- Hold The Rope recaps.
- Hoover Street Rag says thanks.
- Genuinely Sarcastic focuses on how damn hard it is to actually win one of these things.
Horford zen. Jon Horford on the post-game locker room:
"It was beautiful," sophomore forward Jon Horford said. "Everyone was so calm. No one was crying, no one was complaining, no one was throwing things. Everyone was just so calm. Coach (John) Beilein just got up and he started to speak and he just set the tone. He stressed the importance of valuing everything we’ve accomplished.
"He just started thanking everyone, from the players and coaches to the support staff, and he just had this air of gratitude. Having great respect for the moment, and understanding the bonds we’ve made as a team are much more important than winning a basketball game, even if it is the national championship."
Spencer Brinton, come on down. Michigan says they'll look for potential JUCO or fifth-year QBs to address the whole "two scholarship QBs on the roster" thing. Projected impact: none. Even if they find a guy to come in, he'd be a JUCO who didn't get picked up already or a fifth-year guy knowingly walking into a situation where he won't start. That guy won't be better than Shane Morris, and if Michigan is going to try to get that redshirt on him they'll probably be riding with Brian Cleary late in games.
It's all about not quite paying the kids enough money to meet federal standards for financial aid. Everyone hates Mark Emmert. Some of us have good reasons. Others are Indiana State, and this creates a problem for that whole "stipend" thing which is really just bringing the athletic scholarship closer to how much it actually costs to attend various colleges:
In some ways, the issue has become a referendum on Mr. Emmert, whose attempts to get things done quickly have alienated certain factions.
“There are some people who will oppose anything he supports, and that’s unfair,” says Sidney A. McPhee, president of Middle Tennessee State University. As head of the NCAA Student-Athlete Well-Being Working Group, Mr. McPhee has become chief arbiter of the stipend debate. …
The climate has frustrated Mr. McPhee, who believes that even the less-wealthy programs have an obligation to make a priority of players and their unmet financial needs. “If you want to compete [in Division I],” he says, “you’ve got to step up."
They've had an almost unanimous straw poll with various stakeholders in favor; they believe anything they do would just get overridden.
Okay, no counsel. How about standing around them with passive menace? Taylor Lewan isn't going to give various Michigan basketball players noogies until they agree to come back next year:
"That's not my place at all," the senior said Tuesday after practice at Glick Field House. "What Trey Burke, Tim does -- I know Tim, have had class with him and he's a great guy -- whatever decision they make, you have to make the best decision for yourself.
"I think if they choose to leave, they'll have my support. I don't even know Trey Burke, but he has my support. Those guys have done a great job and earned everything they get."
NOT EVEN ONE INDIAN BURN TAYLOR GAWD I DON'T EVEN
Tremendous sighting. In the welcome-home pep rally yesterday:
With his team in folding chairs around him on the floor, Wolverines coach John Beilein took to the microphone and thanked the fans for coming out. He said he had heard about the Monday night gathering at Crisler when the arena was nearly filled to capacity, and called it “tremendous.”
Etc.: Wojo on if these guys are going to hang around yo. SBN on Trey Burke. Of course it's the Detroit Free Press with the commemorative national title book. Twit factory, that place. Northwestern fans have discovered the work of the Michigan wikipedia club. They are not best pleased.
Football player, state champion wrestler.
As the basketball team made their way to the Final Four, the football team picked up a grayshirt commitment from Naples (FL) Barron Collier defensive lineman Brady Pallante. As a grayshirt commit, Pallante will pay his way through school during the 2014-15 scholastic year—during which time he cannot participate in team activities—before joining the team on full scholarship for the 2015 season. If it makes it easier, just consider him the first commitment for the 2015 class, and one who'll get a head start on the academic side of things.
|NR DT||NR DT||NR DT||2*, 77, #78 DT|
Pallante, as you can see, is not a high-profile recruit, and his offer list—only Appalachian State gave him a non-grayshirt offer—is in line with his early rankings. The four services peg Pallante at 6'1" and between 255-278 pounds, making him a pretty stout interior lineman in the Rob Renes mold.
If you see the above and are wondering why the coaches offered a scholarship to an unranked kid from Florida, Pallante—a lifelong Wolverine fan—camped at Michigan last summer and impressed the coaches, as well as making WolverineNation's list of top performers ($):
2014 Brady Pallante -- He's a Florida kid who definitely turned some heads in Ann Arbor on Monday. He has a good combination of size and speed, which Michigan is always looking for.
Pallante won a state championship in wrestling last winter, and apparently reminded the coaches of a certain former Wolverines with a similar pedigree on the mat, per Scout's Kyle Bogenschutz ($) [emphasis mine]:
Pallante, 6’1, 275 pounds finished an impressive junior year with 59 tackles, six sacks, and four forced fumbles, all from the interior of the defensive line, exactly what Michigan envisions him doing at the next level as a one technique.
“The coaches up at Michigan said I remind them a lot of Mike Martin,” said Pallante. “Coach Hoke just sat down with me and said, ‘we’re looking for a guy who can replace Mike Martin at nose guard and a guy that works hard and is a tough kid’.”
Actual scouting evaluations on Pallante are scant; the only one I can dig up is from 247's Clint Brewster, who broke down Pallante's film after his commitment ($):
At about 6-foot-1 and 260-pounds, Pallante has the short/stout frame you want for a defensive tackle to be able to get underneath offensive lineman and gain leverage. Pallante is very quick off the ball and has a number of moves in his arsenal to beat an offensive lineman. He has a brawlers mentality in the trenches and can stand his ground against the run.
Pallante's speed and strength are also noted as positives, while his size is his most apparent area for improvement.
As said above, Pallante's other offer was from Appalachian State. Rivals lists interest, but no offer, from Boston College, Duke, Georgia Tech, Northwestern, Purdue, and UCF.
Per Scout, Pallante recorded 59 tackles, six sacks, and four forced fumbles in his junior season.
FAKE 40 TIME
None of the sites list a 40 time. Rivals does have some lifting numbers: 370 lbs. bench max and 580 lbs. squat max.
Pallante doesn't have highlights on YouTube, but you can see an extensive junior reel on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Pallante could conceivably play either nose guard or three-tech, though it sounds like the coaches have him pegged as a nose, where he can utilize his leverage to hold the point of attack on the interior. Michigan has pulled in a nose guard in each of the last three classes (incl. 2014) in Ondre Pipkins, Maurice Hurst Jr., and Bryan Mone. When Pallante is able to join the team in 2015, he'll be operating behind those guys. At this juncture, it's tough to project him as much more than helpful depth at a position that usually rotates at least a couple of players, but we'll see where he's at after his senior season.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Since Pallante accepted a grayshirt offer, his commitment doesn't affect the numbers for the 2014 class, and it's far too early to take a guess at the 2015 numbers with any real accuracy.
So yeah, this has actually been in the works for a couple of weeks, but being the superstitious person that I apparently am when it comes to sports, I held off posting while UM kept plowing through the best teams in the country. As a result, I’ve had to completely junk sections (e.g. talking about Burke’s chances at national POY honors, lack of compelling storylines) while fleshing out others (e.g. horrible refereeing, announcers with agendas, 3-point shooting as a sustainable offensive strategy) with more information. And maybe the wounds are still too raw and fresh, but this post will be my little catharsis after going through the emotional wringer.
Best: Thank you!
This post may get a little melancholy, so up front I want to say “Thank you” to the team, the coaches, to everyone for a great season. When I caught UM in NYC just before Thanksgiving, I hadn’t seen them play in person in over a decade. But not 5 minutes into that game, I couldn’t get over how much fun it was to watch them. They played the game “the right way”, but not in the cliche way old men use it to refer to a figment of their faded memories, but in the way good basketball should be. It has been an amazing run all year, and will be a tale I tell my kids years from now when they are staring at their iPad 7s at dinner and ignoring me.
This team was fun to watch, and as a fan that is the best complement you can give a team.
Not to go all SEC and make everything about football, but does everyone remember how depressing the 2008 Michigan football season was? The team went 3-9 and wasn’t even that good, and the bowl streak ended, the team was trounced by mid-level MAC teams and freaking Illinois, and everyone was bummed? And this stink, this cloud of despair, didn’t really start to leave until Brady Hoke showed up and the team beat OSU and won the Sugar Bowl?
Well, the conventional wisdom during 2008 was that most Michigan fans had never experienced such a profound sense of national irrelevance, let alone the tangible results of a losing season, in their lifetimes, that they didn’t know how to handle it. They had expectations, and those finally did not mesh with reality. As a result, they lacked the copping mechanisms other fanbases built up over time, of seeing your best efforts end in missed bowl games and losing streaks to rivals. You get used to the teases, the down years, the unknown trials and tribulations that put pencils in your hands during preseason prognosticating when you really want pens. You can’t assume anything, which maybe makes the lows more ominous but also makes the highs that much sweeter.
People will say that UM basketball entered this circle of Hell when Steve Fisher walked out those doors, bodies sticking out from beneath the various rugs and buses strewn about Crisler. But that always felt like an easy-to-locate marker than an actual timestamp, the “official” end of an era for narrative purposes. To me, the beginning of this sports purgatory was that 1993 National Championship game. Until that point, Michigan had seemingly been on a perpetual rise. The title in 1989 felt slightly unexpected at the time but, in hindsight, kind of made sense given the talent on the team. They followed that win up with another solid season, one admittedly down year in 1991, and then the rise of the Fab Five. For a solid 5-year stretch, everything was coming up Michigan.
But then UM lost to North Carolina, and the magic was gone like that. In hindsight, it would have been gone regardless of the outcome, because expectations had been ratcheted up to unsustainable levels as soon as Chris, Jalen, Juwan, Jimmy, and Ray pulled up their black socks. 1989 was the title, but 1993 gave people the license to expect a title, and this pivot is what turns fans from 1980 US Hockey fans to 1980 USSR Hockey fans.
Duke fans feel like this, same with UNC, Kansas, IU and MSU. You want to just love your team for what it is now, but you can’t completely ignore what they were and what they should be. And that taints your view a bit; you are relieved when they squeak by a 5 seed in the second round of the NCAA tournament because it means another trip to the Sweet 16, and it leaves the possibility open for a run to the Elite 8 and to the Final Four. You feel a release not of happiness but of pressure, vicariously living through wins and loses the way you always say you won’t but inevitably ends with you screaming at the television in front of mixed company.
I guess my point is that regardless of how Monday turned out, UM basketball has returned to national relevance, and that is amazing for fans like me who tried to talk himself in Maceo Baston and Louis Bullock as saviors of the Maize and Blue cagers. John Beilein has proven to be a dynamic offensive mind and a very shrewd recruiter, who can meld teams into his image and overcome many of the deficiencies found in the college game. Even with the expected turnover, people will expect UM basketball to be back in the conference and national title hunts most years, like a national power should be. At the same time, though, the feelings of these past 4 weeks will probably never be there again, or if they are they’ll be tinged with a dread you can’t quite shake. The cloud over UM basketball has finally lifted; it may just be replaced with a far less oppressive one.
Worst: You can take the referees out of the Big 10, but you can’t take the Big 10 out of the referees
Now, I could complain about the officiating in that title game as much as anyone, but it was emblematic of a trend in college basketball that has been going on for years. Whether it be due to the byzantine and obtuse rulebook and its inconsistent enforcement, the speed and development of the players, or simply a drop in overall quality, the officiating of major college basketball has been immensely underwhelming. Offensive players are either treated as Faberge Eggs with the ball (and any impediment of their travel to the hoop treated as a class-2 misdemeanor), or running backs in the worst Oklahoma drill in the world. Defensive players seemingly have no idea what qualifies as a foul or not, so they just throw their bodies around and get handsie like they’re at the Gold Club until they hear a whistle. Blatant calls are missed while game-clock differences of .2s result in 20-minute private screenings of computer monitors.
Since players started to go directly to the NBA with little or no time spent in college, people have offered this up as evidence as to why the college game has suffered both aesthetically as well as in results. And while it is true that the overall talent of squads has been diminished, the quality of the games has been affected at least as much by the degradation of the officiating. Or maybe that’s not the right term; the enforcement of rules has become so murky that referees seemingly are making them up as they go along, creating the disjointed and error-riddled product we’ve seen for over a decade.*
And while I love complain about it as much as the next guy, I don’t think refs “pick” a team or storyline and skew the game in that direction. They don’t get paid by the outcome, and despite Tim Donaghy’s claims, I don’t think most horrible calls are part of some insidious plan to defraud the betting public. But this whole season has been a parade of poor officiating in every conference, highlighted by a B1G season in which mauling a player or punching him in the Hoosiers barely registers. UM benefitted from these calls at times, especially during the tourney, but the fact that even the CBS announcers were calling out the poor calls during the game is an indictment of the “professionals” who are supposed to be keeping the game clean for the kids playing it.
*And I’ll add that it’s not like the NBA game is some bastion of beautiful play either. People point at Heat-Thunder and act like the rest of the season plays out like that. As someone who watches Pistons-Bobcats and Timberwolves-New Orleans, lots of games are downright unbearable.
Best: Player of the year != Dickie V's/NBA Draft Express's Ranking
This was one of those sections that was in an earlier draft, before Trey Burke pulled a Triple H and took every relevant POY award for himself. But whatever, it is still relevant. I know I sound like a cranky old man and/or Skip Bayless, but it feels like the POY award criteria has devolved the past 15-20 years from "who is the best player in the country based on a spectrum of elements, including team success, boxscore stats, and quality of competition" to a big switch statement:
case "ESPN likes him";
case "Plays for Duke":
case "White guy with funny hair and/or 'tries hard'":
case "NBA teams will draft him high":
case "Plays for 'big-name' team:
case "Guy who plays basketball well":
I'm not saying this is a full-proof algorithm, but there is a trend, if you will.
But what makes his sweep so great is that he backed it up on the court in different ways, like a true player of the year should. Outside of the second halves against Kansas and Louisville, Burke could never find his rhythm shooting, so he turned on the ball-hawking defense and facilitated McGary and the shooters. He made his team better, and when they needed him to start scoring he usually did. Even in defeat, he scored 24 points in basically a half of basketball, and probably would have had more had two horrible foul calls (Hancock’s three and his block on Siva) not been made. And he did it without the top-notch supporting cast that you sometimes see at places like UNC, Duke, and Kentucky, where multiple lottery picks are peaking at the same time. Simply stated – he put his team in a position to win every game, and it was refreshing to see a POY do that in big games.
Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but I’m expecting McGary, GRIII, and Stauskas to return next year. Burke will be leaving and I expect Hardaway to be gone as well, but overall this team should have some talented players returning to supplement the Irvin and Walton joining the fold next year. It will be interesting to see how the young frontcourt players respond to an offense without a POY feeding them the ball at the best places possible, but I also have faith that they will make the necessary improvements to be leader-types next season. In particular, the rebounding ceiling of this team should rise dramatically, if for no other reason than a year in the weight room (not sure if they’ll have time to be in the community) will bulk up McGary and Robinson to the point they can bang with other post presences in the conference. And while I’m not expecting Spike to replace Burke’s production or leadership, he has proven himself to be a steady enough hand (and Beilein a great molder of PGs) to be a suitable replacement next year. The team will look quite a bit different, but a dramatic fall doesn’t seem likely.
Worst: Draft Speculation
Ugh. Every year, as soon as the confetti has been swept off the court in whatever gawd-awful football stadium the NCAA selected to screw up their championship environment, the attention turns to which players will/should be declaring for the NBA draft. Until recently, of course, UM never had to worry about it. Sure, Jamal Crawford declared early and that stunk, but the NCAA seemed hell-bent on making sure he’d never play a college game again, so that wasn’t a surprise. Manny Harris and Darius Morris were slight surprises but nothing shocking, especially given the clear ceilings in their games.
But the talk surrounding GRIII and McGary seems different, in that it epitomizes the “upside-idation” of pro basketball right now. It’s no longer enough to just be a competent player who needs to improve and mature; now everyone looks at a kid and guesses how he’ll look in 2-3 years, with more muscle, better shooting and different coaching, and then tries to figure out if he’s worth a draft pick. I think both of these players will get drafted in the NBA when they finally leave, but I’ve seen nothing this season to make me believe they can be even a fringe-rotation player on a decent NBA team next season. That doesn’t seem like a smart investment for either kid to leave UM, but I’m sure the next couple of weeks will be filled with dread.
Best: Likeable Players
This is probably more a blurb than a real thought, but it was refreshing to watch a Final Four in which none of the teams featured an outwardly-villainous player. That means, no Marshall Henderson’s, no Derrick Nix’s, not even an Evan Turner-type who doesn’t do anything outwardly horrible but just seems like a jerk on the court. Maybe Triche at Syracuse, but I don’t remember people hating on him like other players in years past. I certainly wasn’t crazy about Luke Hancock as a player against UM, but him being good at basketball (and being bailed out by questionable officiating) aren’t really character flaws to the degree that old Shark Boy from Ole Miss is.
Worst: Injured Players != Special Powers
I’m sure this will be unpopular to some, but the Kevin Ware situation drove me crazy not because of the way the Louisville players responded to it, but how everyone else with a buck in the game tried to exploit it for their own gain. Shirts were made so that Adidas could make a couple more bucks, blogs flooded their site with GIFs and videos to drive traffic while joining in the faux-outrage circle jerk, proponents of paying college players held it up as a shining example of why players need to be financially compensated, and the WWL/media amplified coverage to 11 in order to push the narrative that a kid’s horrific injury meant something more than horrible luck. In short, it was what you’d expect from modern sports culture.
But the real travesty is that Ware’s injury had very little to do with, you know, basketball. He was a good player for the Cards, but they obviously were able to weather his loss on the court reasonably well. Those kids were obviously hurt and pained by watching one of their friends and teammates suffer a horrible injury, but the narrative pushed that they were going to play “hard for Kevin” completely dismisses the reality that these kids were in the Elite 8 and playing for a f’ing national title already. Their next loss would likely be the end of many of their college careers. They had enough motivation.
Yet, to listen to pundits you’d think Louisville needed to sacrifice Ware’s tibia and fibula to the Basketball Gods in order to overcome Duke, WSU, and UM. To cheapen what happened into some motivational plot device devalues the real pain and suffering that occurred. Louisville won and lost because of how they played on the court, and while I’m sure they were happy that Kevin Ware was able to watch them win the national title, I find it hard to believe that their motivation to win a title was supplemented in a meaningful way by his injury.
Worst: Looking for answers
After a loss, people always look for explanations, some fact or trend that explains how one team emerged victorious while another left in defeat. And in some games, perhaps there is a clear example – poor shooting, rebounding, defense, etc. Maybe the other team his 50% of its threes, or forced 25 TOs. But over time, you start to see that perhaps teams lose and win because, in a one-game playoff, anything can happen. UM was a mediocre rebounding unit all year, and that continued into the postseason (35.1 TREB in the regular season, 36 TREB in the tourney). They shot about 71% on FTs in the regular season, and not much worse in the tourney. The defense gambled with outside shooting all year and it usually worked out, except when it didn’t and they were blitzed by teams like IU and MSU. Nothing much changed this postseason except for the fact that UM cruised past VCU and Florida in ways that people didn’t expect. They squeezed out a win against a Kansas team that seemingly every year underperforms a bit. Syracuse was a nail-biter to the end, and Louisville could have turned on a couple of plays. UM’s profile didn’t change that much, except that when they went on those 3-pointer binges the other team usually failed to respond.
My point is that UM lost because someone had to, just like SDSU, VCU, Kansas, Florida, and Syracuse. Yes, talent tends to win out over time and that’s why regular seasons matter in terms of seeding, but the best and worst thing about the tourney is that every game feels like its own little SimCity, and sometimes the power reactor is going great, the streets are clean, and the taxes are high, and other times, well…
Best: Next Year
As much as I complained about the dangers of expectations, it is also fun to realize that for the first time in, I don’t know, decades, UM football and basketball seem to be both on the rise. I’m sure when one of these teams flames out early in the tourney I’ll feel differently, but it’s currently April 9th and everyone is still talking about UM basketball and not pining for the spring game so that we can all speculate on who’s going to be the starting right tackle. That’s pretty awesome.
Hi. You may be experiencing a tide of listlessness as the adrenaline pumping of the last few weeks subsides and takes its toll. We are there with you, glassily staring into nothing for minutes at a time. Absentmindedly putting mango habanero salsa on potato pancakes. Sweeping the same spot on the floor for a half hour. That kind of stuff. You're probably trying to add the word "butt" to a column of numbers in Excel. That's what I'd be doing if I had to have Excel open, anyway.
Instead I'm staring out at the rain, because I don't have to have Excel open, and typing this fairly poor excuse for things for people to read. Here are some things that MGoVideo thinks you may be interested in from Monday's game. The best is the Albrechtining:
And the infamous call on the block: